Have You Lost Your Why?

exhaustedI don’t know about you, but lately I just feel drained of inspiration. One of the tell-tale signs is doing things at the last minute, like this blog post, and that means it’s time for me to revisit my why.

We all have days when it’s tough to get out of bed, go to work, and do our jobs effectively. As writers, those “blues” take their toll on our work product, which derives from that spark, our creative or our logical thoughts. When those shut down for whatever reason, we face a problem commonly known as writer’s block.

Even as technical writers, we can find ourselves disoriented about a writing assignment, not sure how to tackle a project or which way to come at a report. We may spin our wheels for long periods of time, or just put a project aside until we feel prepared to deal with it, all because we’ve lost our why.

In all of these instances, the final result is the same – a loss of productivity; a loss of efficiency; reduced confidence in our own ability; reduced satisfaction in our jobs that may have been the cause of the problem but that now continues to spiral; and most importantly a weakened writing product that becomes ineffective; that doesn’t communicate very well, that requires layers of revision from others on our team and that breeds either resentment or distrust.

So how do you stop this cycle? You have to get back to your why. Rediscover your purpose. To do that you have understand where your purpose is not.

Purpose is not inside of you. There are some who will say, dig deep, go for a long walk, meditate, or read. Think about why you started this job in the first place. Revisit your earlier successes.

But if you continue to rely on yourself as the source of inspiration, you will be disappointed. That’s part of the reason we got here.

We are subject to fluctuation, to changes in mood, to the highs and the lows of achievement, success, but also of failure and disappointment. We have moments of ecstasy and moments of doubt. And quite frankly in the grand scheme of things, our circle of knowledge, education, and experience is very small. It’s limited by time and space, which are finite and compressed.

That’s one reason we have communities that we should be taking advantage of. For you, that may be your colleagues at work. If you’re an entrepreneur, that might be the online groups with whom you participate, your peers and mentors. But even that circle is limited. Let’s find a way to expand it.

If you’re asking yourself – what is my purpose? why am I writing this document? why am I working on this project? – your answer may be something like – I’m passionate about the environment (remember, I work with a lot of government biologists). But that’s too small, because some days you just won’t give a hang. The problem will feel too big.

mourning doveEven if you make it more specific, I care about the mourning dove, and I wish to see it survive into the next generation, that answer, noble as it may be, will not suffice from day to day.

If you extend that to the group with whom  you work and say, I work with a group of dedicated conservation biologists who all care about the fate of the mourning dove and who wish to see it survive into the next generation, you still will find difficulty at times maintaining the inspiration to continue the work that you’re doing.

I encourage you to find a larger context that resides inside of your reader and the actions that they will take after they have read your work:  I write to people who may or may not be aware of the status of the mourning dove, but who, through my work and that of my colleagues will gain a broader understanding of our conservation efforts, including the work that we’re doing with the mourning dove, and who will, because of the writing we’re doing, become cognizant of the impact their behavior has on the world around us and will work with us to see this species and others thrive forever.

That is a mission statement that will keep you motivated today, tomorrow, next month, and next year. So the next time that you’re feeling uninspired, think about the work that you do, think about the work that your colleagues do, and then think about what you want your readers to do. How can you make an impact beyond you?

We’ll be talking about the base of the Writer’s Triangle, the purpose, in the Tweet Chat #WrMatters today at 4 pm. And I hope to gain some inspiration from you others, including expert editor @ShakirahDawud. I’ll follow that up tomorrow right here. So stay tuned for some more purpose-building, and I hope that you’ll feel inspired to join us on that Tweet Chat today.

Comments

  1. You have really touched the heart of the matter, not really touched, after reading it, I feel myself coming out of my routinated boring life. Many thanks to you.

  2. Debra Bills says:

    Great article! And yes, I do care about the mourning dove. Oh wait, I’m one of those government biologist.

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